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Vermont teen centers get $133,000 US grant

By Lisa Rathke
Associated Press / September 5, 2008
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MONTPELIER - Two years ago, the Montpelier teen center took a group of youngsters whitewater rafting in Maine, using money from a federal grant to pay part of the $2,100 cost.

This year, a federal earmark could help pay for another trip.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders announced a $133,000 grant for the Vermont Coalition of Teen Centers.

Of the 42 centers around the state, about 30 will get grants of between $1,500 and $2,000 to be used for fitness and health-related programs, said Hope Emerson, statewide coordinator.

"It makes a tremendous difference to us," she told Sanders, an Independent.

Problems with youths getting involved with drugs and crime tend to happen after school, Sanders said. Supporting teen centers and after-school activities for youngsters will help to prevent delinquency, he said.

"What I see happening around this state is that there are a lot kids who, after school, spend their time hanging around on street corners getting tempted into doing self-destructive-type activities," he said.

The 12,000 teens who visit Vermont's 42 teen centers are often the most difficult to reach and the most likely to be engaged in unhealthy activities, coalition officials said.

Most aren't involved in sports and don't get regular exercise or have a healthy diet, according to the coalition.

Every dollar spent on programs that gives youths the opportunity to come together to play sports, do homework, mentor one another, and learn healthful activities "is a dollar well spent," Sanders said.

A separate $66,000 federal grant will go to the city of Barre to help build a skateboard park, in which the teens will play an active role.

"We have a lot of youngsters, especially in Barre City, who like to skateboard," said Stephanie Quaranta, recreation director. "But yet we've been forced to ask them to leave the downtown streets . . . and we've never really offered them a place to go."

With the funding, the children will develop a skate park for themselves, building the ramps with guidance from professional builders, she said.

They also will have to meet with peers to take their suggestions and work with community members, she said.

In Montpelier, at Basement Teen Center, youths can go apple picking; take pie-making classes; play pool, guitar, and Ultimate Frisbee; or just hang out. It's open afternoons and on Friday nights.

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